I am about to give you a gift which, if used wisely, can change your life. The secret of absolute success in anything in life worth doing.
This is what all those self help books go on about in 250 pages, I will give you in 700 words. This is What Successful People do, What Millionaires do, What Marathon Olympic Champions do, and this is What Stephen King Does.
1. Have a realistic goal
How do you know if you are lost, if you don’t know the destination?
You have to find a goal which is difficult enough to motivate you but at the same time not so hard it demoralizes you. For running, I set a goal to quality for Boston Marathon; I got there eventually but not the first time of trying.
I do the same for writing. I want to write for two hours a day. I limit my blog research to a set number of hours a week and write it at my desk at work (when my day ends) before I leave. I read for thirty minutes minimum before bed and try to fit in other blogs and comments when I can.
2. Make a Plan
You cannot and will not succeed in running, writing or any appropriately challenging goal without a plan. For my plans, I use Excel. I have a training plan for every race I have ever run with every training session, track, tempo, long run, and gym. I comment on each session afterwards and then see how I can tweak my next plan to work better.
In my plan, I will have every day set out with type of training, location and distance. I overlay this with the ramp up, the middle, and finally tapering for the race.
Writing is no different. Planning for that novel, I do the same thing. I sit down and decided how many pages I am going to write (distance), where I am going to write (location), and what the structure of the story (type of running and overlay.)
3. Execute the Plan
With my plan in front of me, I execute. I execute what is in my plan for today. I do not look at the end goal. I have made my plan, I know if I work on today’s part I will get to the end. I do sometimes tweak the plan depending on what I am learning as I go along. However, I only tweak to improve the speed or duration of the plan.
I will only change a plan in a negative way if something out of my control has happened—like break my heel!
4. Be a recluse
Writing and running marathons are lonely and other people will not understand why you want to go off for hours and do either. If we put procrastination to one side for a moment, the number one killer of a good marathon time or completing your novel are your family and friends. They will tempt you with the latest episode of How I Met your Mother or a couple of extra glasses of wine the night before you early morning long run on a winter’s day. You have to push them away every time. Let everyone know your routine and then never waiver from it. Over time, others will give up and plan around you.
I do have an advantage. I am blessed with bad hearing and can hear very little without my hearing aids, this has meant, I have always been more comfortable alone; listening is exhausting.
5. Enjoy Yourself
Okay, this might seem obvious but if you do not enjoy running for three hours plus at 7 AM every Saturday then it isn’t going to work for you. The same goes for writing. I love writing, I do it whenever I can, if you don’t feel this way, maybe a novel is not your thing. I am happiest when I am running, writing, or playing with my daughters.
6. Free Your Mind & Find the Zone
You are sat down or you are out running, now is the time to forget about the boundaries of everyday life and go with what is in your head. Lose yourself in the moment (Eminem.)
In running, I go into the zone after about 30-40 minutes. In writing, if I am not in the zone I struggle to write my best, and this is whether I am writing a first draft or editing.
7. Break the Rules
Listen to all the good advice and then tweak, mold and ignore it all to fit you and your life!